What’s Tetherball?

Print anything with Printful

Tetherball is a simple and affordable game played on school playgrounds and city parks. The game involves hitting a ball around a pole with a rope attached until it wraps around the pole. The rules are straightforward, and players take turns hitting the ball. Unfortunately, there are no professional outlets for tetherball, and it is unlikely to become an Olympic sport.

In the film Napoleon Dynamite, the title character is often seen playing tetherball, either alone or with other characters. Tetherball is a competitive game most often seen on school playgrounds or city parks, mainly because it’s relatively cheap to set up and the rules are fairly simple. The standard equipment list for a regulation tetherball court includes a pole about ten feet (three meters) high, an eight-foot (about 2.3 meters) long nylon rope fitted with clips, and a soft rubber tetherball. A modern tetherball has a recessed area for the clip, while older tetherballs may have a rubber or metal outer ring.

The string is attached to the top of the pole by a clip, while the tetherball is attached to the other end of the string. A line painted or taped approximately in the middle of the post designates the legal playing area. The purpose of the tetherball is to wrap the entire length of the string around the pole in a clockwise or counterclockwise direction. The final wrap must be above the center line to be considered legal. The first player to reach this point wins the game.

The general rules of tetherball are quite simple, making it an ideal game for school playgrounds. Two players stand on opposite sides of the center post and cannot cross the imagined midline. One player is the designated server, who has a distinct advantage over the opponent at the start. The batter is permitted to use an open hand or fist to hit the ball past his opponent and wrap it around the post in one direction. Some versions of tetherball require the opponent to allow the ball to loop several times before touching it. This actually levels the playing field somewhat, as the server no longer has the advantage of a longer string.

Once the tetherball has been put into play by the server, the opponent attempts to block the ball and send it back in the opposite direction. The rules of Tetherball prohibit catching the ball, touching the string, or re-throwing the ball with an open hand, a foul called a carry. Each player must hit the tetherball itself with an open hand punch or slap. Some versions of tetherball allow the player to bounce the ball up and down in his hands until he is ready to shoot, a practice similar to dribbling in basketball. If the ball fails to stay in motion, the opponent may receive the tetherball and serve it.

The end point of tetherball is to wrap the string all the way in one direction until the ball contacts the post above the center line. Because the string gets shorter as the game progresses, the final game of tetherball is often the most exciting part. Players can use extreme angles to drive an opponent out of position or hit the ball hard for physical advantage. Some players even vary the timing of their attacks to lull their opponents into a false sense of security. Players typically play a number of games to determine an eventual winner.

Unfortunately for serious players like Napoleon Dynamite, there are few if any professional outlets for tetherball. Much like other field games, like hopscotch and square, tetherball hasn’t exactly improved its chances of becoming an Olympic sport. It doesn’t do well on television, officiating can prove difficult, and tetherball hasn’t enjoyed the same media attention as its playground rival, dodgeball.

Protect your devices with Threat Protection by NordVPN

Skip to content